Ken Livingstone has escaped expulsion from the Labour Party for comments he made about Hitler.
The former mayor of London – who has been suspended since April last year –had claimed Hitler supported the creation of a Jewish state.
After a disciplinary panel, Livingstone was judged to have brought the party into disrepute and held to be guilty on the three counts he faced on Tuesday.
But he will be suspended further a further year, rather than being expelled, which caused an immediate uproar.
Last year Livingstone told BBC Radio London that the Nazi leader had supported Zionism in the 1930s before he “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews’”.
Despite widespread criticism from Labour MPs, Livingstone stood by his comments and repeated the claim in other TV appearances.
Speaking outside the private hearing of the Labour National Constitutional Committee (NCC) in Westminster, Livingstone said he felt the hearing was “like sitting through a court in North Korea”.
He added: “If I had said Hitler was a Zionist I would have said sorry, you can’t apologise for telling the truth.
“I apologise for the offence caused by those Labour MPs who lied and said I called Hitler a Zionist.”
He continued: “I did a Vanessa Feltz interview and I guess that is a crime against humanity.”
But there was an immediate backlash to the decision.
The Holocaust Educational Trust said the verdict was a “slap on the wrist for a serial offender”, and argued antisemitism “is not taken as seriously as all other forms of racism and prejudice” within the Labour Party.
Labour MP Michael Dugher said:
“Ken Livingstone should be kicked out for good.
“Years of supposed long service and closeness to the leadership do not entitle you to a free pass when it comes to antisemitism.
“The Labour Party have spent 12 months investigating what to every sensible person is an open-and-shut case. This looks like an embarrassing fudge.
“The Jewish Board of Deputies said it was antisemitism, as did the Holocaust Education Trust, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Chief Rabbi. Is the party really saying it knows more about antisemitism than the Chief Rabbi?
“The current reluctance of the party to apparently take swift and severe action against Livingstone does us no credit whatsoever.”
Fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting said:
“This decision makes a complete mockery of the claim that Labour takes a zero tolerance approach to antisemitism.
“Ken Livingstone’s offensive remarks towards the Jewish community date back to his second term as Mayor of London and have already inflicted significant damage on our party.
“Today was an opportunity for the Labour Party and its leadership to send a clear signal that our party will never be a safe haven for antisemitism of any kind. They’ve blown it.
“My message to my own Jewish community in Ilford North and to decent-minded Labour Party supporters across the country is that there are still a great many of us in the Labour Party who will never tolerate antisemitism and will fight relentlessly to get Labour back to being an effective opposition and alternative party of government that’s actually worthy of their support.”
On the news, Progress director Richard Angell said:
“The judgement on Ken Livingstone’s appalling remarks on Hitler and Germany’s Jews remains sadly overdue. His comments were beyond the pail at the time, and every time he has sought to clarify them, he has just caused more offence.
“There can be no ambiguity on antisemitism and Livingstone should not have been allowed to try and parse his way out of what have been repeated offensive and upsetting comments to many people both inside and out of the Jewish community.
“It isn’t good enough for Jeremy Corbyn to hide behind the process here. He should be showing leadership and setting an unambigous tone from the top of the party that there can be no place for antisemitism in British politics.”
Livingstone said in a statement:
“Today’s Labour Party panel extended my suspension for another year because of my political views, not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party.
“The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice in a number or ways. For example the panel hearing was not held in public, despite the fact that it could have been under Labour’s rules. I was suspended for more than 11 months before the hearing was held.
“People in this country urgently need a Labour government.
“Scheduling the final day of this disciplinary hearing, on the day the Labour Party launched its campaign for the 4 May elections, was a supreme misjudgement by whoever planned this in the Labour Party Headquarters. It was clearly not in Labour’s interests as the hearing will inevitably generate unfavourable headlines at a time when Labour should be focussed on campaigning.
“Labour members need to step up campaigning towards May’s elections and redouble our efforts to secure a Labour victory.
”I will be launching a campaign to overturn my suspension of Party membership.”
Arriving for the opening day of the Labour Party hearing on Thursday, Livingstone insisted he had nothing to apologise for and that there had been “real collaboration” between the Nazis and the Zionist movement.
“I simply said, back in 1933 Hitler’s government signed a deal with the Zionist movement, which would mean that Germany’s Jewish community were moved to what is now Israel,” he said. “You had, right up until the start of the Second World War, real collaboration.”